And cloture, of course, is the “real” vote here, requiring 60 to end debate as opposed to the 51 needed to pass this travesty. How’d he do it? If you believe Senate staffers, first he decided he was going to let only 24 amendments come to the floor and then he “sold” 16 of those slots to the bill’s critics in exchange for their pledge to vote for cloture when the time came. He already had 45 votes banked; according to the AP, the 16 new amendments “come from senators who helped derail the legislation earlier this month,” which strongly suggests that all of them voted against cloture the first time. Specifically named are Kit Bond, Barbara Boxer, John Ensign, Jim Webb, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Max Baucus, Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill, Chuck Grassley, John Thune, Norm Coleman, and Bernie Sanders. All 12 voted no on June 7th. Robert Menendez, who voted yes, is also named in the AP piece, but his may be one of the other eight amendments they’re considering, likely because he nearly walked away from the bill two weeks ago because it wasn’t lenient enough and Reid wants to keep him on board.

How grand might this betrayal be? Per the AP, this grand:

One senior aide close to the discussions predicted that as many as 24 Republicans would back moving ahead with the bill under the scenario envisioned – compared with just seven GOP senators who did so previously.

Chambliss and Isakson said today they won’t vote for cloture so it may be more like 22 Republicans. But so what? 60’s the magic number, however they get it. Kaus refuses to go quietly, trumpeting the fact that even the Democrats’ polls can’t do better than 47-47 for this steaming piece of shinola. This isn’t a key issue for the left, though. Granted, as Kaus notes, immigration did rank above health care on the sample’s wish list, but it was only one point higher and that’s after a month of an actual bill being in play in the Senate and all the attendant media coverage that comes with it. Except in the purplest of Blue Dog districts, does any Democratic incumbent have much to fear by way of a primary challenge if they vote for amnesty? Particularly if they get right on Iraq and health care as that emerges as a major issue (which, thanks to Michael Moore, it’s already started to do)?

Exit question: Is the battle lost, my friends? Has the time come to call in Tancelot?

Update: Noam Askew’s added an update to his post (linked above) to say that sources are telling him that not all of the 16 have pledged to vote for cloture. That’s good news, but of course much depends on who and how many. Names and numbers, please!